Sunday, April 15, 2012

Letting Go and Trusting in My Teeth

It was a great visit to LA.. The main reason I came was to see a cutting edge orthodontist at UCLA for a second opinion about my teeth. They'd spontaneously moved out of alignment a few years ago after about 20+ years of being perfectly aligned. I was prepared for more news of needing X-rays, braces, mouth guards, lots of big bills, etc. to move my teeth back and realign my jaw. But what I got instead was some counseling from a very experienced, sweet, fatherly-type orthodontist. His prescription: no orthodontics, no mouth devices (for now). Just relax my jaw, stop touching my teeth together, stop trying so hard, have more fun, and things will start to shift back into place.

Wow! Really? I was shocked. This was not at all what I expected to hear, yet it was exactly what I needed to hear! In fact, I have done a lot orthodontics and many alternative therapies in the last few years, with minimal results. It's been rather upsetting as I've been concerned about continually chipping and wearing down my teeth, as were the specialists I've worked with. So, to hear an 40+ year expert say to just let it go and basically trust that it will be okay, after so many experts have wanted to give me extensive and expensive treatment, really caught me off guard. And, yet it's so very perfect. It will require a lot of awareness for the ways I hold tension and chew my food. But I am so ready to release the stress that I carry in my jaw and ready to trust even more in the Universal support and wisdom that is always present within me, wanting to be known.

In fact, increasing awareness is exactly what I've already been focusing on in the area of speech (see last 2 blogs). So to be told to actually put my awareness into my mouth is just too ironic. In yoga, our speech (vak) is said to start in the unconscious. It then moves forward into the conscious as thought energy. Then it forms in the mind as thought words, and finally it comes out of the mouth as actual words. So it's perfect as I'm already so focused on what comes out of my mouth in that last stage of speech, and now I just need to focus on the actual muscles of my mouth/jaw and how I'm using them in those thinking and speaking stages.

As far as relaxing more and having more fun goes, well this is also just the perfect advice for me and something I've already been attending to. From my coaching work, I recognized I wanted to prioritize more time with friends and community. From my Voice Dialogue coaching, I recognized that the "Spiritual Pusher" and "Doer" parts of me tend to run the show and the parts that want to relax and play are often left behind. So I've been taking more time off and scheduling in play time with Patrick, friends and family. Summer is going to be chock full of fun!

For now, I have surrendered my plan to work with an expensive bio-aesthetic dentist and have already greatly heightened my awareness for how I chew, talk and hold my jaw. I'm excited to recognize that I can be my own healer on this journey of the mouth, and am looking forward to more inner mouth freedom! Frisbee anyone?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Yoga Immersions and Conscious Communication

Vanessa and I just finished our 3rd weekend of the Ashland Immersion. I'm happy to be halfway through both Immersions now. It's a very busy time for me, since I'm co-teaching two Immersions simultaneously, plus doing a Level 2 Immersion in addition to my weekly classes. Whoa! I've never taught the Immersions simultaneously like this. It's not my ideal schedule, but it's how it worked out, and there's a lot that I'm appreciating about it. I'm doing all the planning and scheduling for the Arcata Immersion, since it meets first, and we're using that for the Ashland one. It's more efficient for us, plus our students can do make-ups in either group if needed, which has been cool. So what's been interesting is witnessing the similarities and differences between the two groups and teaching experiences. I get to watch how my teaching evolves and improves between the two weekends, and how the different groups respond to the same material. I also enjoy watching the various group dynamics as well as how my co -teachers bring in unique perspectives and insights. I really appreciated how organized and clear Joshua's anatomy session was. I'm now in the midst of teaching my 9th Immersion and it seems there's no end to how much I can learn from these courses. It just keeps getting better!

What I especially enjoyed covering these last 2 weekends was the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and specifically the yamas and niyamas (social restraints and personal disciplines). I felt great resonance with the topics of ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth), as these are very much at the forefront of my mind. I've been looking deeply into my own communication habits and those of our society at large, and have felt surprised to see all the times we mask our feelings, hide the truth, or use subtle forms of aggression (usually in the form of judgments or blaming), in our speech.

So it was fun for me to bring forward a bit of my knowledge about NVC (Non-Violent Communication) and my recent work in coaching and speaking my truth (see last blog) during that Immersion lecture. And I could see that the students were also quite inspired by the discussion. It was super juicy for them as it was so relevant to their daily struggles. And I'm guessing my enthusiasm was pretty contagious too.

For me, paying attention to my speech (vak) is a huge part of my practice (see Sept. 22 blog and April 3). It's where I am bringing so much more svadyaya (mindfulness) now than ever before, and it's what I am finding huge passion about. And I'm loving the fact that my friends and students are really open to learning about it. They are recognizing places where their communication habits are falling short or even inhibiting them from reaching their communication goals, and they're wanting to make positive change. So when appropriate, I offer my knowledge and coach them along. It seems to be helpful for them and I think it's fun!

And I really appreciate when people are willing to coach me too. I thrive on constructive and compassionate feedback, and am always happy to grow and learn, even when it's hard work. I recently had a great email session with a friend who's quite skilled in the language of ownership/truth-telling. She helped me to see where I could step it up even more in fully owning my feelings. She showed me how wanting something "for" somebody else was not taking responsibility for my feelings. It was so satisfying to get clear about what feelings were mine and which were actually projections. I can see this takes much steady practice over a long period of time (abhyasa)!

So this is my yoga: bringing mindfulness, kindness, compassion and truth into my speech in a much deeper and more conscious way. I'm excited to see how it will all unfold over time and who in my community may want to step forward and play with me in this fun game of truth. Is there somebody you'd like to be get more honest with?
Look for NVC workshops and practice groups coming to the Community Yoga Center soon!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Cleaning by Telling the Truth

I've been doing so much inner work lately, it's like I'm Spring Cleaning from the inside out, and boy does it feel great! What most excites me is practicing the yoga of conscious communication and telling my true feelings when it feels risky. This is satya, telling the truth, the second yama (social guideline) of Patanjali's yoga sutra. It's not like I've been lying, but I just haven't been disclosing all of how I feel, in order to protect myself or the other person in some way. But it's created disconnections rather than the true connections I crave.

I've stayed away from phrases like "you made me withdraw," "you've caused me so much frustration," "you hurt my feelings," etc., because I want to avoid blaming the other person for causing my feelings. I know I am the only one responsible for my feelings ( = "owning"), and "telling the truth" for me has been sharing them. The truth cannot be argued with. Nobody can tell you what you're feeling is incorrect, right? It's yours and yours alone. So when we let others know how we feel without putting any blame on them, they are much more likely to be receptive. It's a win-win! And for sure, it takes commitment and steady practice (abhyasa).

One tool that I found especially helpful was the NVC (Non-Violent Communication) lists of actual feelings and faux feelings. Many of us don't have a large vocabulary for how we feel. It's just not something that we're trained in. So even when we may be trying to take full responsibility, we often end up using words for feelings that are not true feelings, they're actually assessments of how we think others are treating us, and people may respond defensively. Here are some examples of faux feelings (notice they can even be positive): accepted, appreciated, blamed, ignored, abandoned, criticized, attacked, pressured, intimidated. Those words are actually attempting to evaluate what the other person has done "to you" instead of saying how you actually feel. This is judging language. It tends to close the door to intimacy rather than open it. And it is not taking 100% responsibility, so it is disempowering.

In fact, it's quite common to insert the words "I feel like" in front of a thought, belief, or one of these faux feelings, to make it sound like a feeling. For example: "I feel pressured," or "I feel like you're neglecting me." I know this a tricky one to grock because this language style is deeply imbedded in our society. So if "I feel like, I feel you, or I feel that" could be replaced by "I think, I believe, or I think you," then it's an assessment, not a feeling, and it will probably not be received in the way you'd like.

Go here to learn more and for a great list of true feelings: Also, Marshall B. Rosenberg's book, Non-Violent Communication is a great read and an easy introduction to learning the practices of NVC, which involves much more than expressing our feelings.

So lately I've been taking big risks in some close relationships like never before. I've been telling my truth where previously I've withheld it out of fear of being rejected or hurting someone's feelings (which of course is impossible)! It's been scary for certain, but also incredibly liberating. I'm doing it consciously, fully owning it and the outcome has been awesome. I've found that when I've shared my truth, my friends have been very receptive and appreciative. They want to be let in and it inspires them to be more honest with me. Together, we break down a wall that we hadn't even realized was there.

Aaaah, I'm thrilled to finally be doing this deep work and letting in more intimacy. The Spring Cleaning has begun: I'm clearing out the old habits that have been hiding in the dusty corners of my closets. It's not always an easy task, but definitely very satisfying!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Seeing the Divine within

From my March Newsletter:

Spring is just around the corner. The earth is bursting with life and color - are you delighting in the creation?
As the teachings of Tantra Shaivism remind us, this entire world is an emanation of Shiva, the incredible source essence of auspiciousness, consciousness, presence, and joy. Then who we truly are is this radiant goodness, as is everything that we see, feel and think. All humans, plants, animals, rocks, roads, buildings, thoughts, behaviors, etc. have these auspicious qualities and are of the same positive source.

When we chant Om Namah Shivaya in our invocation (I bow to Shiva), we are remembering this source and honoring these auspicious qualities in the source and in ourselves, something we so often forget to do. But our practice is one of remembering.

Can you believe that everything you think and feel and do is an act of the Divine, even if it's not your best? Try the heart-opening practice of looking into the mirror and saying Shivo Ham (I am Shiva). Repeat this silent mantra as much as possible, especially after you've said something you wish you hadn't, and feel your heart soften. Next try looking into a baby's, a pet's, a lover's eyes and see Shiva looking back at you - om namah shivaya. Can you recognize this radiance in the rose bud, in the new grasses, in the yoga mat, in the clouds, in the trash heap? If you practice in this way, you just might experience less judgement and separation and more connection and joy in your world. I dare you to try!

May you delight in the abundant radiance of Spring. May you fully engage in the riches of the world and make every encounter one of divine recognition and joy.